Multiple Sclerosis, community physiotherapy, non-ambulatory, Exercise Buddy, physiotherapy assistant
BACKGROUND: Approximately 25% of people with Multiple Sclerosis (PwMS) are non-ambulatory, but little evidence exists for interventions within this population. Primary care physiotherapy in the community is a frequently used option for managing chronic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), but access and availability is limited. A new model of care has used Exercise Buddies (paid professional carers) to exercise with PwMS under the direction of community physiotherapists. This study aims to explore the development, implementation and outcome of the programme. METHODS: Seven semi-structured interviews were carried out with the physiotherapists, Exercise Buddies, PwMS and the MS Ireland Co-ordinator who took part in the new model of care. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. FINDINGS: Analysis generated two main categories: Benefits and Communication Difficulties. Within Benefits, the main themes of Physical and Psychological Benefits for PwMS and Physical and Psychological Benefits for Carers emerged. Within Communication Difficulties, themes of Defining Roles & Expectations and Feedback & Communication During Implementation emerged. A subtheme of Insufficient Training of Buddies emerged within the theme of Defining Roles and Expectations. CONCLUSION: The Exercise Buddy system is a home-based intervention delivered at a community level, and has potential as a model of care with both physical and psychological benefits reported for PwMS and their carers. Issues discussed mostly related to communication and training. These need to be addressed for future successful development.